There have been nationwide fears

that a looming Oct. 1 deadline for millions of Americans to receive Real ID verification could throw the license renewal process into deeper turmoil. However, President Donald Trump ordered on March 26 that the deadline would be extended by one year. Nonetheless, Carroll remains con- cerned that the rush of Californians eventually attempting to renew their commercial and operator’s licenses will swamp DMV centers and com- pound districts’ ability to efficiently get new bus drivers through the pro- cess and into service. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls,

but we take the right steps to make sure we hire the right people, and I don’t know if these are necessarily people who will stay,” he said. “Nor- mally, we put five to 10 people in our training program every month, and two to six end up as drivers.” With training and hiring suspend- ed, the district was already 10 to 20 trainees behind by late April and uncertain when the process would resume. “Every one of my trainers could be training eight hours a day, but we can’t move more drivers through the system, and that’s frus- trating,” he said. Questions also abound about the

number of drivers who might decide they don’t want to risk exposure to the virus through daily contact with large numbers of children. “We’ve not had anybody retire yet,

but I think that’s because no one knows where this is going or where it ends,” Carroll said. “I think the poten- tial is there. And I’m a little concerned when summer rolls around, if we cancel classes, that folks who are driv- ers will have to go out and get other jobs to pay their rent or mortgage. It may be difficult to lure them back.” So, what does a district do with

drivers when there’s no current need for them to drive? “I get calls every day from drivers. ‘I’m so bored, what can I do?’” said Carol Hatfield, execu- tive director of transportation for the Hillsboro School District in Oregon.

36 School Transportation News • JUNE 2020

She noted that the district launched

a daycare program for the children of first responders, and bus drivers can volunteer to help fill that need. Others have stepped up by assembling study packets at home for students and even serving as virtual translators. As is the case for many districts

and contractors across the country, Maine’s School Administrative District No. 75 was already facing a driver shortage. Director of Transportation Adam Mayo said one of his objectives over the summer months is to “be sure we keep the drivers we have.” “We worry about students’ mental

health and wellbeing, but we also need to worry about the staff be- cause it’s affecting people in different ways,” he said. “I’m keeping in touch with [drivers] because ensuring the staff is well and ready to come back is very important.” Mayo said remaining in contact

with driver recruits is a priority to maintain their interest. “Keeping communications going

with them is key at a time when so much is up in the air,” he said. “How do we keep new drivers moving for- ward? That’s a hard question. We’re doing what we can online, and we want to be sure that people are still studying because once it happens that the DMV reopens, we want to be sure they can take the test and pass.” John Droppleman, transportation administrator with Mineral County Schools in West Virginia, said he is particularly interested in seeing how employment in the hospitality indus- try shakes out and whether it provides a boost to the school bus driver ranks. “Folks that work in the restaurant business may be hesitant to go back. We may have some applicants based on that. Other industries are affected, too,” Droppleman said, noting the recent closing of an area paper mill. “We did receive a few applications, but we only had a few openings, and we’ve already filled them.” Droppleman added he doesn’t expect COVID-19 to change how he recruits drivers and mechanics, but

Driver & Mechanic Shortages

Do you anticipate the coronavirus outbreak will impact the amount of school bus drivers you have on staff for next school year?

36% It will remain the same 28% Yes, we will see a decrease in school bus drivers 25% I don’t know 11% Yes, we will see more applicants (Out of 357 responses to a recent STN reader survey.)

paying transportation staff during school closures

95% School bus drivers 90% Administrative staff 78% Mechanics 71% Monitors/Aides 1% None (Out of 347 responses. Total does not equal 100. Multiple answers allowed.)

Waivers & Extensions Being Implemented by States for School Bus Drivers

75% Expiring licenses 72% CDLs 72% Medical examiners certificate 59% Commercial Learner’s Permit 47% Required annual in-service training 19% Other (New driver training) 16% Random alcohol and drug testing 9% Criminal background checks (Out of 32 states responding. Total does not equal 100. Multiple answers allowed.)

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